Are you planning an Asian Wedding? If so you will know that Asian Weddings are without doubt a production and many are of a Bollywood style and sized production. This is great, but for those planning such a celebration it can be an absolute headache. If so, here are 10 top tips that will help with the planning of your Asian Wedding and how to make it run smoother.
Whether you are Hindu, Sikh, Muslim or even Christian there is a massive amount of cultural heritage that you will wish to embrace and this is really important. As the next generation coming through however, whilst heritage is a big part of who you are, in the western world you have grown used to doing things in possibly a less random way that your culture traditionally brings.
The other thing is we all like to impress and it is great to add colour and atmosphere to these events to make them truly memorable.
This article is aimed at the big feast and celebration days. I understand that some are split up over several days and that can be a good thing, but most of what is mentioned is generic and can help with everything.
Tip 1 – Don’t overcrowd your schedule.
Often it is thought that guests have to be entertained and stimulated all the time. In fact most are happy, relaxing chatting to friends and relatives who they may not have seen for some time. However, it does not mean that you should not provide entertainment. So make sure that when you create your day that you consult someone with experience of timing. This could be your caterer, a planner or a master of ceremonies/toastmaster. Also a good type of person to use is a floating entertainer who can walk amongst guests not necessarily needing a specific slot, such as The Roving Artist who cuts out silhouettes or a Magician.
Tip 2 – How to handle “Indian Time”
Allow for “Indian Time”. There are two ways around this. Either ask people to arrive half an hour earlier than you need them, or be really clear on the invite that things begin at that time and if they are not there then they will be missing out. I have witnessed on many occasion at a Walima or Nikah’ where people arrive during the main course and complain they have missed starters and could they have some please. Needless to say most caterers do not oblige. Also for certain types of event make it very clear that you need to have an RSVP. You need to make it very clear that if they do not reply then there will not be a place for them. This last comment I appreciate is unlikely to work well at many Muslim events where a table plan is not used, but it does help you plan how much food you will be needing.
Tip 3 – Making the most of the Arrivals
These in most cases are one of the biggest spectacles of any Asian Wedding. The take offs and landings so to speak. From the initial arrival of either the bride or bridegroom, to when they make their grand entrance into a reception as a couple.
The arrival of the Bridegroom before any ceremony is massive and is always full of noise and dancing. First however, check with your venue as to what you can actually get away with rather than what you think you can. Noise is an issue at some places with Dohl Players being very restricted.
Then, on or in, what should the Groom arrive? With Muslim weddings invariably it is normally all about the convoy of cars (“chicks love the car” as Batman once said!) With Hindus and Sikhs it is often an entourage “Reservoir Dogs” style or on horseback or even in a horse drawn carriage. However, without doubt the best has to be on the back of a mechanical elephant!
As for the bride she will make her beautiful and demur entrance and she should be greeted with the respect and applause she deserves.
Finally for the arrival into a reception as a couple this is best done using a master of ceremonies in conjunction with a DJ and possibly drummers, or something to catch the eye or ear. Using a DJ on their own can have the possibility of switching off half the audience immediately, as their style can do that. Using someone who is not DJ styled, but has the ability to bring the whole room with them, can make by far the biggest impact.
Tip 4 – Making the most out of your Ceremonies
Culturally these are really important.
Following the bridegroom’s arrival there will be rituals that need to be carried out regardless of religion. It may involve money, fruit or even shoes but all these take time, so be aware that you allow enough time for all the little ceremonies and rituals that take place, so that the main event gets under way on time and can be kept to time.
Secondly, and this is becoming more and more important, remember that not all your audience speak Arabic, Hindi or Sanskrit. Therefore, if you wish everybody to be a part of your ceremony, where they do not get bored and start talking amongst themselves, try wherever possible to engage a priest or Imam who is multi lingual and who conducts their ceremonies this way, involving everybody. It makes such a difference.
Tip 5 – How to handle the Group Photographs
This is part of any wedding, but it is taken to a higher level altogether at Asian weddings as the group photo list can form a major part of the wedding itself.
Whether run on a stage at Muslim and Sikh Weddings, or under a Mandap at Hindu ones, the most important thing is to have a plan. Running these photos ad-hoc does not work and wastes valuable time.
Invariably photos normally coincide with a service of food. The trick is to have your photo taken and then go and eat. However, how do you know if you are in a photo? Quite often people wait to have a photo taken that is not happening and end up wasting their time when they could be eating. Alternatively, a family goes off to eat when they are needed for a photo. The best way of resolving this problem is to have a formal published numbered list and have someone, preferably independent of each family, running it.
The trick is to have somebody who can command the room that avoids any gap between photos, allowing them to be taken quickly. Having a published list may not be culturally the thing to do, but it saves a really big amount of time and at least makes sure the smiles of the bride and bridegroom remain smiles, not grimaces. Also whilst not “hierarchally” correct put the “Family” at the end as invariably they may have to wait to eat then anyway. (With the possible exception of elderly grandparents.)
Tip 6 – When is the best time to serve the food?
Yes, you will need food, and plenty of it. The trick is to plan your day around it. Work out where and when the food comes and then build your schedule around it. It is one of the good reasons caterers can help you with your timings. If you want your food to be at its best then work closely with them. However, once you have agreed a schedule with them, you must try and stick to it if you want the food to be at its best.
The next thing is to work out how to space out the menu as well as how to make best use of the time that surrounds it. Sometimes dancing time can really help here, because regardless of whatever has gone on before, you can always stop any dancing “on time”, which can really help with the flow of an event. Sometimes the dancing gets shortened, and others it can be for longer than expected. However, if you are running speeches between courses, because they have an unknown length, given most speakers inexperience in how long they are to speak for, adding music after them can help get things back on track or swallow up a gap.
Tip 7 Don’t get carried away with Table Plans
On the subject of food people may well need somewhere to sit. Whilst in many cases no formal table plan is in operation, make sure that if there is a table reserved for the “Family” that it is clearly identified. It can be embarrassing emptying a table full of people just so that the Family can sit and eat when their time comes.
If dining is more formal, you will need a table plan and the best advice is to keep it as simple as possible depending on numbers. If there are under two hundred and fifty guests by all means show the seating plan by table, but make sure the table plan resembles the room and how it is laid out. You can be as creative as you like involving a theme for your tables if you wish.
If numbers exceed two hundred and fifty then my advice is to create an alphabetic list and use a table number system rather than names for tables. Type should be non-italic and make sure that the type colour contrasts completely with the background. So having four hundred and fifty people for dinner, using table names, which are not laid out as the room is, using beautiful gold italic writing on a brown background is a non-starter!
Tip 8 How many Toasts to the Bride and Bridegroom should there be?
Try and avoid having more than one toast to the bride and bridegroom. It is great when you hear it. However, if a second one happens it can seem mildly embarrassing. If it happens five times as happened at a wedding I was at recently, then it is just weird and seriously embarrassing!
If you are Muslim, or any religion for that matter, you do not have to have alcohol in your glass to raise a toast to someone. Ideally though, the person who stands up after a toast should be able to respond to the previous one. For instance if there is a toast to the bridal party then a member of the bridal party should be the next person to speak so they can say thank you. The only toasts that do not necessarily require a response would be one to “absent friends” and the one to the “bride and bridegroom”.
Tip 9 – Who do I need to research for my Asian wedding?
Choosing your suppliers can be a minefield and some are better than others, but up to a point you kind of get what you pay for in this game. However, here is a list of the type of suppliers you may wish to research.
- Planners (who may be able to source all below)
- Incidental Music (strings or sax players)
- Registrars (for Civil)
- Traditional Music (Drummers/Trumpeters/Sitar Players)
- AV Production Teams (Often linked to Music/DJ)
- Other entertainment, such as dancers or magicians etc
- Cake Maker
- Make Up Artist
- Photobooth in all there forms like the Rickshaw Wallah or Magic Mirror Suppliers
- Independent MC/Master of Ceremonies/Toastmaster
Whilst not obvious this last one is probably one of the most important to consider. If they are good, and they need to understand Asian Weddings, they can really make a difference to the running of your day. A planner can help you create your day, but often they fall short on running it for you. A toastmaster can make everybody’s (guests and suppliers) day just that bit easier and better because nobody has to think because they can do it for them. They will guide everybody including the bride and bridegroom through everything, but most importantly of all, they will help keep things on time. If you spend a big amount of money on a DJ to play for three hours at the end of your evening’s reception and they only get to play for 45 minutes, that is very bad value for money. If the toastmaster has constantly and subtly moved the event onward so they get their full 3 hours, that has to be good.
They can help with every part of your event listed above, especially things like the big arrivals, that big list of photos and getting everybody sat down in the right place at the right time. Invariably they become the best value for money thing you will spend on your celebration because they are the person who can give you value for money out of everybody else you engage. They also can hold the attention of the room better than a DJ as their diction is generally clearer.
There are only a limited number of toastmasters on the circuit who can handle an Asian wedding though. If it seems like that they are too much like “value for money” they may be no good, so interview them well. Another reason for interviewing them well is that you have to get on with them. If they wind you up every time they open their mouths then that is a problem.
There are also some very good Asian Wedding toastmasters who are Asian themselves. All the ones I have the privilege to know, are all good at what they do, but struggle a little with Asian weddings because someone invariably comes and tells them they are not doing something correctly. However, it is they who are doing it correctly as per their instructions. The advantage of using a non-Asian male is that they clearly do not represent either family. So politically he cannot offend either family. I say male, because there are also some very good females, but they are not treated with the same respect yet culturally. I am sure this will change, because all the women I know that are toastmasters are good at their jobs too.
Tip 10 – Getting Value for Money
There is one other thing you may wish to consider. I understand it is best to wear a sari when it is warm, but having your wedding in January through to March can make your budget go as much as 3 times further. So if you have dreams of a particular venue and a list of “A list suppliers”, but they are just outside your budget in the summer months, if you get married midweek in February, you may find that you have change for even more things with which to entice your guests with!
James Hasler is a professional event/conference host, moderator and facilitator. He is also a Master of Ceremonies, Charity Auctioneer and Voice of God and is well-known as The Man behind “The Man in the Red Coat”, a Professional Toastmaster. He has facilitated events all over the UK, as well as throughout Europe and the United States and is the 2019 Toastmaster of the Year.
He also coaches public speaking and works with those who wish to gain greater confidence in front of an audience or camera.